Hodge sends confused messages over the future of social services

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge has warned that care must be
taken to prevent a return to divided social services departments as
the proposals in the green paper are implemented.

Speaking this week in London on the Every Child Matters green
paper, which sets out proposals for huge structural reform of
children’s services in England, Hodge seemed to contradict many of
its proposals for hiving off children’s services from social
services departments.

She stressed it was essential to integrate staff across social
services, but this could not be achieved by joint training or
pooled resources alone. “In the end it is down to willingness to
work together,” she told delegates at a conference, organised by
think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

“We must be careful that new boundaries are not developed and that
what led to Seebohm – [when centralised council social services
departments were established] – in the 1970s does not happen

Many of the proposals in the green paper appear to suggest
integrating children’s social services with education, with a new
post of director of children’s services overseeing the work of the
combined services within a children’s trust.

It is not yet known how this role will work with that of the
director of social services. Caroline Abrahams, director of policy
at children’s charity NCH, said there were questions over how much
power the new director would have. She was “unconvinced” by many of
the structural changes proposed, which she described as “competing

Echoing concerns raised by the Association of Directors of Social
Services over the role, Abrahams said: “It is too specific about
how to achieve outcomes for children locally. It is probably
impossible to draw up a model that will suit a London local
authority and a shire council.”

She also expressed doubts about how much would be learned from the
35 children’s trust pilots, arguing that most had targeted services
at a specific group of children rather than taking a universal
approach. And the partnership between education and social services
was potentially problematic because education was likely to get a
larger share of funding once budgets were pooled.

She said schools may not choose to take on the extended model
because of tensions around the need to be inclusive and the demand
of targets set around achievement.

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